The Cherokee religion

The songs and dances of Cherokee ceremonies and how their language is used as part of Christian wors

The Cherokee’s are very religious people. Before European contact we were religious in knowing we had a creator, and worshipped him through song and dance. The man would sing the songs and woman would keep a beat to the songs through instruments called shackles. They are made from turtle shells with river rocks inside and attached to a piece of leather; these are strapped to both of the woman’s legs.

Today some people use aluminum cans filled with pebbles to provide rhythm while they dance around the eternal fire.

When they dance they are singing and praying to the creator, just like people do today in the churches.

When one goes to a dance these days the families gather to visit, feast and they dance far into the night.

This is a place to worship and in the Cherokee language we call God, or creator, U-ne-tla-nv. This is our church, and just like any other churches you have no littering, liquor, and/or rowdy behavior.

Although we did not know him as God, it is the same person that we worshiped back then. Today some of the dances still go on the same way.

We had European influence and the missionaries who started pushing religion on us; because all of the beliefs were already there, it was very easy to switch the Cherokee’s into Christianity.

I believe most native tribe’s are very religious in their own way, because of the fact we live so close with the earth. Although some have evolved or others have been modified, the traditional Cherokee’s of today recognize the belief system as an integral part of day to day life.

Many Cherokees today go to church just as any other person does. I, personally, went to both the dances and churches while growing up. Although my father did not fully understand the dances, he did not forbid us from going.

Our father was a minister in some local churches and he would preach the sermon in the Cherokee language in the Tahlequah, Oklahoma, area where we lived and is considered Capital of the Cherokee Nation. Our mother grew up going to the Stomp dances as her religion while she was growing up. When she met our father and started raising their family they both started attending the local church.

A person can be of any denomination but most of the Cherokee people and family’s that I know are of Baptist faith. In the past they had all Cherokee preaching churches and also what we called a ‘white man’ church; all of the services would be preached in the English language. In the Cherokee churches these days they share both languages. There are not as many Cherokee’s that speak their native tongue anymore, so the sermons in the churches are done in the Cherokee language and in English, as well as, the songs that are sung in the Churches.

Most of my family still speak the Cherokee language and believe in God, Creator or U-ne-tla-nv as our lord and savior.

Kathy Van Buskirk is a Cherokee from Oklahoma, USA. She has been married for 25 years to Perry. They have two children, Christopher 25 and Melissa 10. She has worked at the Cherokee Heritage Center for 20 years.

How Jim Murphy's mistake cost Labour - and helped make Ruth Davidson

Scottish Labour's former leader's great mistake was to run away from Labour's Scottish referendum, not on it.

The strange revival of Conservative Scotland? Another poll from north of the border, this time from the Times and YouGov, shows the Tories experiencing a revival in Scotland, up to 28 per cent of the vote, enough to net seven extra seats from the SNP.

Adding to the Nationalists’ misery, according to the same poll, they would lose East Dunbartonshire to the Liberal Democrats, reducing their strength in the Commons to a still-formidable 47 seats.

It could be worse than the polls suggest, however. In the elections to the Scottish Parliament last year, parties which backed a No vote in the referendum did better in the first-past-the-post seats than the polls would have suggested – thanks to tactical voting by No voters, who backed whichever party had the best chance of beating the SNP.

The strategic insight of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, was to to recast her party as the loudest defender of the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. She has absorbed large chunks of that vote from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, but, paradoxically, at the Holyrood elections at least, the “Unionist coalition” she assembled helped those parties even though it cost the vote share.

The big thing to watch is not just where the parties of the Union make gains, but where they successfully form strong second-places against whoever the strongest pro-Union party is.

Davidson’s popularity and eye for a good photo opportunity – which came first is an interesting question – mean that the natural benefactor in most places will likely be the Tories.

But it could have been very different. The first politician to hit successfully upon the “last defender of the Union” routine was Ian Murray, the last Labour MP in Scotland, who squeezed both the  Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote in his seat of Edinburgh South.

His then-leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, had a different idea. He fought the election in 2015 to the SNP’s left, with the slogan of “Whether you’re Yes, or No, the Tories have got to go”.  There were a couple of problems with that approach, as one  former staffer put it: “Firstly, the SNP weren’t going to put the Tories in, and everyone knew it. Secondly, no-one but us wanted to move on [from the referendum]”.

Then again under different leadership, this time under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour once again fought a campaign explicitly to the left of the SNP, promising to increase taxation to blunt cuts devolved from Westminster, and an agnostic position on the referendum. Dugdale said she’d be open to voting to leave the United Kingdom if Britain left the European Union. Senior Scottish Labour figures flirted with the idea that the party might be neutral in a forthcoming election. Once again, the party tried to move on – but no-one else wanted to move on.

How different things might be if instead of running away from their referendum campaign, Jim Murphy had run towards it in 2015. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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